Respect and Disrespect in the Classroom

The December 2004 issue of The Teaching Professor has an interesting article on respect and disrespect in class. As we all know, one of the most effective ways to get students to respect you is to respect them. The problem is that sometimes professors do things that students see as disrespectful and that the professor never realized would be interpreted that way. Below are what 288 students volunteered as examples of faculty respect and disrespect. At the end of each item is the percentage of students who selected this example. 

There are several disrespectful actions that you would never want to do, but there are others which you might choose to do in specific circumstances (i.e. refuse to offer help with an assignment). What this list reminds you, however, is that those actions will be interpreted as disrespect unless you can overtly provide an alternate motivation that is solidly grounded in care for and belief in your students.
  • Behaviors that show respect

    • Recognition of student perspectives 29.6%
      • asking their opinions
      • taking their responses into account when making decisions
      • getting to know them
    • Treatment of students 23%
      • showing kindness and concern
      • showing sensitivity to students’ concerns
    • Task-related help 13.9%
      • responding to questions
      • providing help for students having difficulty
    • Responsiveness to unusual situations 12%
      • making exceptions for students with special needs
    • Affirmation of students 10.2%
      • confirming value of their contributions to class activities
      • responding graciously to incorrect answers
    • Non-defensiveness 7%
      • responding non-defensively to questions and challenges
    • Class integrity 4.4%
      • being honest and truthful with students
      • demonstrating trust in students
      • fair and impartial treatment
  • Behaviors that show disrespect

    • Insensitive treatment 53%
      • instructor rudeness
      • arrogance
      • ridiculing and putting students down in front of classmates
    • Lack of help 16.3%
      • ignoring students’ questions
      • refusal to provide assistance with assignments or missed class work
    • Defensiveness 11.4%
      • reacting angrily to student questions
    • Failure to recognize student concerns 6.9%
      • ignoring students’ perspectives
      • failing to learn names
    • Classroom integrity 6.9%
      • being treated unfairly
      • lack of truthfulness,
      • lack of justification for instructional decisions
    • Failure to respond to students 5.4%
      • not responding to class concerns
      • not making exceptions and altering assignments in response to student need